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I have noticed that there are a few LEGO pieces that also function in the "real-world." For example, the 10830c01 Magnifying Glass can actually magnify. enter image description here

Another example is the 70001pb01 Compass, which works the same way you'd expect any "real-world" compass to function. (Although it's not always 100% accurate.)

Are there any other LEGO pieces that have "real-world" functionality?


There appears to be a bit of ambiguity regarding what quantifies a "real-world" use. I suppose the line between a "real-world" use and not a "real-world" use is a bit hazy, so I am going to attempt to clear this up. Firstly, it should be noted that this question is primarily asking about individual pieces. (Theoretically, you could make most anything with enough LEGO pieces.)

I think it is best to look at the overall intended purpose of the piece.

What is a LEGO Magnifying Glass for? Well, after a toy, it is for magnification. What is the intended purpose of, as Aziraphale mentioned, LEGO Power Functions Motors? To motorize. On the other hand, what is a LEGO hinge intended for? To... serve as a door hinge? No. It's to be a small, LEGO compatible, hinge. "LEGO compatible" are the two keywords here. Could you use a LEGO hinge to serve in the "real-world?" I suppose you could, with a lot of modifications, after which it would no longer be just a LEGO hinge.

Here are a couple more examples:

  • What is a LEGO wheel's intended purpose? To be a wheel for a real car or even a toy car? Nope. It's to be a LEGO Compatible wheel for LEGO axles and LEGO toy cars.
  • What is a LEGO door piece for? To be a "real-world" door for people? No. It's to be a LEGO Compatible door.
  • What is the purpose of a LEGO compass? To point North. Thusly, it would function in the "real-world."
  • What is the LEGO whistle's intended purpose? (As Uli mentioned) To be a whistle.

Lastly, please keep in mind that the quantification of "real-world" usability is more of a spectrum and not a "yes/no" system.

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    I realize this question is specific to parts/pieces, but it seems worth noting that there are lots of sets that are useful. I've been totally happy with my 40173 picture frame. – chicks Apr 14 at 3:42
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    Isn't every item lego makes an effective caltrop when left on the floor? More-so on hard floors rather than carpet, and damage multiplier for bare-feet. – Criggie Apr 14 at 4:34
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    @Criggie And now imagine an entire floor made of lego...! Bedtime in a Legohouse – Uli Apr 14 at 8:50
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    @Criggie That's probably the "real world" use that I am most familiar with! xD – Magnus Apr 14 at 16:05
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    @chicks That's a great point. If we're talking about sets, then I suppose the LEGO Board Games would be another thing that works in the "real-world!" – Magnus Apr 14 at 16:08

13 Answers 13

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All Aboard!

I'd like to add my all-time favorite LEGO piece:

  • x870cc02, THE BLACK WHISTLE!

enter image description here

The white brick is a microphone. Attach it to your train's motor and BLOW THAT WHISTLE! Depending on how short (or LONG!) your whistling was, the train would go forwards or backwards.

  • Real-world use: Not only did it drive your train round the bend, but your parents too...!
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    You got two awesome items in one post!. The microphone is awesome too! – djsmiley2k Apr 16 at 20:45
19

The holes in Lego Technic work very well as holes.

By which I mean, I have built very successful motor-driven cross slides for small machine tools using Technic pieces.

When paired with nominally 4.8mm metric ground rod (which tends to have a negative tolerance) the 4.8mm holes are a nice sliding fit. Imperial 3/16" rod at about 4.76mm also works, but is a bit sloppier.

Although the hole is a little undersized for tapping M6 (5.0 required), the soft plastic easily allows a taper tap to be run through. The 1mm pitch of the thread, together with the hard metric 8mm width of the brick means that the start and finish phase of the threads is identical. If an already tapped brick is pegged as a guide to a new brick, then (a) the guide will help ensure that thread goes in straight and (b) has the same phase in both bricks. I mark a guide brick, so there's no cummulative error in creating new tapped bricks.

A piece of 6mm studding can then be used as a lead screw. It can be fitted concentrically to Technic shafts by locknutting it to a tapped brick, then pegging the brick to a 40t gear.

That's all been taken apart now. But only last week I had a measurement problem, and needed to be able to adjust the height of a stage quickly between many, repeatable, fairly precise heights. Behold, two sets of binary stacking gauge blocks, 16x8mm down to 1x8mm.

enter image description here

  • "Technic", not "Technik". (I don't know if there's anything else to fix in your answer, or I'd edit the fix in myself.) – V2Blast Apr 16 at 5:52
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    @V2Blast thanks – Neil_UK Apr 16 at 6:10
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One obvious answer is all components of the power functions family. all components of the power functions family

Lights can be used as lights, motors can be used as motors.

14

I once published a paper in a peer reviewed scientific journal using data gathered using a remote translation stage constructed from Lego Technic.

I could only get ~ +-1mm accuracy out of it, where the proper stages were more like +- 0.1mm, but it was good enough for a proof of concept and the proper stages were on back order.

Of course many people would say that an X-Ray Physics lab is not the real world, but that's another matter!

12

Minifig accessory "shovel" can be used for dispensing minute amounts of a powder. Urban legend attributes such usage to drug dealers.

The fact that amazon lists digital pocket scale (0,1 g resolution, 100g max) and an airtight container as "frequently bought together" hints it's more than just a legend and LEGO shovels are indeed used in this way.

printscreen

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    This is the best answer. Welcome to Bricks.SE. – Aziraphale Apr 16 at 20:23
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    Look at the insane price for the shovel! Bricklink lists it as Minifigure, Utensil Shovel (Round Stem End), not to be confused with the much more expensive Minifigure, Utensil Shovel (Flat Stem End). – Aziraphale Apr 16 at 20:32
  • @Aziraphale When you're weighting a powder that's worth $100 per gram, $4.69 is reasonable investment : ) – Agent_L Apr 16 at 20:35
  • If anyone are interested, I can probably find some of those shovels to sell for $4.00 (that's a discount on several times the average price on bricklink for those). – Henrik Apr 17 at 9:02
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The web pieces made of flexible string are perfectly serviceable real-life webs, even if they are too small for most applications.

Of course the LEGO brand magnets are working real-life magnets as well.

Some sets have included large air bellows that could be compressed manually (i.e. hit) to supply a burst of air to launch a projectile or a racecar.

The light-up bricks are naturally serviceable as tiny flashlights.

The rechargeable batteries are usable outside of the LEGO world as batteries.

The large sawblade used in some constructible action figure lines (for example Bionicle) and System lines (for example Power Miners) with the right setup could be used as a table saw to cut through paper or other materials of comparable strength.

The parachutes of the 2019 City Police sets are advertiesed as working parachutes, so I'd expect them to be ... working parachutes, at least for loads comparable to minifigures.

Almost all LEGO propeller pieces are functional propellers (having pitch and accepting an axle), with admittedly terrible performance compared to purpose-engineered examples.

The old-style 9V and newer PF electric extension wires could be used as real wires.

The electrical switches (or polarity changers) are working too.

In the same vein, the pneumatic components (pump, tube, valve, cylinder, tank, manometer) are working as well.

The Technic shock absorbers (springs) would apply too, some are even adjustable.

Naturally, all Technic gears are working gears, even if they have suboptimal shapes and materials compared to real-world examples.

The LEGO City mugs can actually hold tiny amounts of liquids.

The boat hull pieces that are advertised as being able to float, do of course float.

The treasure chest, large barrel and letterbox pieces are tiny, but functional storage items.

Some City sets include working car jacks.

LEGO has produced mirror pieces with stickers that really reflect light and of course all transparent window panels let light through. On the same topic, many door elements have working hinges and the tiny fences could be used to separate tiny gardens and to keep tiny animals from crossing over. (Caveat: almost all animals that are small enough that can't just step over it can probably climb over or fit through the holes)

Possibly the most boring example of all: the weighted brick does indeed weight quite a lot due to a metal insert and is thus usable as counterweight.

  • Not sure the boat hull pieces really count - I mean, LEGOs are made of plastic, and thus all float (possible exception of the weighted brick). Being boat hull-shaped does not necessarily make any difference in that respect... – Darrel Hoffman Apr 16 at 13:21
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    @DarrelHoffman Certainly not all bricks float and lots of them do so only as long as the air bubbles trapped on the underside are not dissolved in the water. See for example: bricks.stackexchange.com/a/9013/3631 – zovits Apr 16 at 13:42
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Those shoehorn pieces worked. Technically, all of them serve their intended purpose as bricks. The ropes function. The ball shooting contraption present in the Lego Ninjago dragons (and other sets, I bet) functioned, as well as the spring-loaded cannon pieces. The axles technically worked (but not very well in actual cars).

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    I've seen them serve their 'intended' purpose in the real world. My favorite piece though: the winch. – Mazura Apr 14 at 16:53
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    What do you mean by "Those shoehorn pieces"? – zovits Apr 15 at 13:44
  • The brick puller? – Jarmerson Apr 15 at 15:16
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Gears function quite well for creating mechanical devices such as functioning clocks:

enter image description here Design by KEvronista

Naturally you can use an electric motor for more accurate timekeeping.

4

Disclaimer: this is cheating a bit.


All of them!

enter image description here

I mean - even the most simple lego brick serves as a brick, so a creative mind can devise a real-world use for almost any brick if you have enough time, money and bricks at hand.

3

I suppose several of the tools in Minifigure utensil wheel theoretically could be used in certain circumstances. I.e. you could hit things with the hammer, it would probably break before you got anything useful done with it, but it can still be said to have it's functionality.

3

LEGO rubber bands, O-rings, and belts can be used to grip things, for sealing pneumatic moving parts, and for transmitting power.

LEGO sails actually catch wind on floating vessels, and the covered wagon covers and tents keep water off whatever's underneath them.

2

Ultimately, all functional LEGO elements can be used in the "real world" for their function.

  • Hinges can be used as hinges
  • Wheels work well as wheels
  • Containers (e.g. drawers) can contain things
  • Magnets work as magnets
  • Decorative elements can be used for decoration

... and so on.

  • They're the most prolific tire manufacturer in the world, twice over. – Mazura Apr 25 at 5:41
0

Robots created with the Mindstorms product line are real robots.

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